University Presidents

A biographical guide the principals and presidents of Eastern Michigan University (previously named the Michigan State Normal School, Michigan State Normal College, and Eastern Michigan College)

Albert Leonard, 1900-1901

Albert Leonard, born near Logan Ohio attended the Ohio Central Normal School, and graduated with a master's degree from Ohio University. In 1897, he joined Syracuse University as professor of pedagogy and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He assumed his administrative position at Michigan State Normal College in July of 1900.

Prior to his appointment the State Board of Education decided that the President of the Normal College would oversee the principals at the two new normal schools in the state, Central and Northern as well as a principal at Michigan Normal. This was a position held for only one year before the State Board dissolved the position and settled on a new governance model.  

Leonard stayed in Ypsilanti until moving to Boston to serve in the Educational Department of Houghton, Mifflin, and Co. In 1907, he assumed responsibility of the Schools at New Rochelle, New York and held the position until this death in 1931. 

Elmer A. Lyman, 1900-1902

Born in Manchester, Vermont, Elmer A. Lyman was the head of Mathematics Department at the Normal College for less than a year prior to his appointment as principal of the College. Lyman attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 1886 and worked for public schools in Kansas and Ohio for four years after graduation. He returned to teach at the University of Michigan before joining faculty of the Michigan State Normal College in 1898.

When the State Board of Education dissolved the role or President of the Normal School System in Michigan Lyman returned to his position as the head of Mathematics, a position he then held until his death in 1936 at the age of 73.  

Lewis Henry Jones, 1902-1912

Lewis Henry Jones was born in Indiana, grandson of an anti-slavery agitator, raised Quaker. He attended Spiceland Academy, as his predecessor Richard G. Boone had, and graduated from the Oswego Normal school in New York. In 1872 Jones took a position teaching natural science at the Indiana State Normal School at Terre Haute and from there he rose the ranks to superintendent of the Indianapolis Public Schools and served the National Council of Education.

He was appointed Superintendent to the Cleveland Public Schools and served until 1902 when he took the post as President of the Michigan State Normal College at the age of 58. He took the post with the understanding that he could have the authority to hire and fire faculty, the initiative to determining institutional policy, and that he would only stay ten year. He purchased the Samuel Post mansion, repaired it and moved in with his 16 year old daughter Edith (who later married Harry Shaefer). 

Jones saw a rapid increase in enrollment; and with the State Legislature overseeing three normal schools (an increase with the addition of Western) and one normal college, funding was not released in a manner that could address class sizes of 60-70 or delay in completing the new science facility (Sherzer Hall). Jones was successful in obtaining funds to complete the science hall; construct additions to the training school building, and obtain drawings for an auditorium (Pease). He removed the entrance examination requirements for high school graduates to complete two or four-year life certificate courses; expanded domestic science and manual training and in 1904 installed courses for rural school teachers. 

Jones remained in Ypsilanti after his retirement for five years until his death in 1917 at the home of his daughter. 

Charles McKenny, 1912-1933

Charles McKenny was born near Dimondale, Michigan September 15, 1860. He earned a degree at the Michigan Agricultural College as well as two degrees from Olivet College. He taught in the Charlotte schools, then became principal of the Vermontville high school. He became professor of English and History at Olivet College before being appointed principal of the new Central Normal School in 1896. He left Central in 1900 to accept the presidency of the Wisconsin Normal School at Milwaukee. In 1912, he returned to Michigan with his wife and three children to accept the Presidency of the Michigan State Normal School.

Within the first year of his leadership, McKenny secured a commitment from the State Legislator for a $100,000 a year financial appropriation. These secured funds allowed for the completion of a men's gymnasium, a green house, a health cottage, an auditorium (Pease Hall), a building intended for domestic science but devoted to industrial arts and administrative offices (Boone Hall), and the renovation of the old gymnasium. Between this first effort to improve the campus and the inauguration of a second effort to expand the campus in 1927, the rural consolidated Lincoln School was built in 1924. This second expansion was to be a six year effort to bring the funding to the Normal College in line with the other institutions of higher learning in Michigan, but with the onset of the Great Depression only the Library (Ford Hall) in was completed in 1929. A student Union was built in 1931 with private funds and was named for Charles McKenny.

Educational offerings expanded to include the Extension Department (1921), which served as off-campus continuing education; Department of Special Education in 1923, a project to consolidate the 13 rural school districts south of Ypsilanti into the Lincoln Consolidated School which would be used as a laboratory school by Normal; a campus laboratory school, Roosevelt High School was complete in 1925 and served as both a laboratory high school as well as an expanded elementary.

McKenny was active in professional and community organizations as well serving the National Society for Scientific Study of Education ( a precursor organisation to the American Association of Teachers Colleges, AATC), the AATC,  American Council on Education, National Council of Normal School Presidents and Principals, the Michigan Schoolmasters Club, Michigan Authors Association and the Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce. McKenny died in September of 1933.